« AnteriorContinuar »
gentlemen, man proposes, but God disposes.' The great Arbiter of destiny has ordained the issue of events otherwise than as we had hoped, planned, and expected. Even last night suddenly came a peremptory order from head-quarters to Captain Clifton to join his regiment instantly, for the purpose of taking the command of a detachment of cavalry, to march immediately to the Indian frontier, to put down an irruption of the Shoshowanawas! Ladies and gentlemen,' continued the old gentleman, warming up with his subject, "you know the stern, uncompromising duty of the soldier at such a crisis. One syllable, one single syllable, comprehends his insupportable obligation-Go.' The man, the lover, the bridegroom must give place to the soldier. our greatest poet, Walter Scott, has it, the soldier at the sound of the trumpet, must
Leave untended the herd,
The flock without shelter,
"Ladies and gentlemen, our gallant Captain Clifton has literally left his 'bride at the altar.' But soldier's love may not mourn bridegroom's loss; nor may we deny ourselves the distinction and joy of your presence for the whole night, nor," the old man was unconsciously sliding from his lofty magniloquence down to the plain vernacular, "nor must I disappoint these young men and maidens of their dance tonight. Ho! music there! Strike up the liveliest quadrille air upon your list. Let them dance to the briskest music while they are fresh. Charley Cabell, my boy, come here and lead out your cousin Carolyn !"
Major Cabell advanced, and with much grace and dignity led Miss Clifton to the head of the quadrille, as the music pealed forth.
Young gentlemen, select your partners!" exclaimed the old man, adding example to precept by choosing the youngest and prettiest girl in the room, and leading her to the place right opposite his nephew and daughter. Soon all the surprise and disappointment were forgotten in enjoyment. The evening was spent in the gayest hilarity-Carolyn Clifton, the forsaken bride, apparently the gayest of the gay. So gay, indeed, was Miss Clifton, that she drew upon herself the severe animadversions of several ladies present, who affirmed
that her conduct was heartless in the extreme-to laugh, and sing, and dance, and jest with such thorough abandonment to pleasure, just after the departure of her lover to brave the ghastly horrors of Indian warfare. Much more did they approve of the pensive manners of Zuleime. Poor Zuleime was all unskilled in self-control; her heart was "exceeding sorrowful," and so she let it appear. The company separated at a very late hour that night, or rather a very early hour of the next morning; those in the neighbourhood departing, those from a distance retiring to the chambers to take some sleep before breakfast, after which they were to set out for home.
OVERTASKED, weary, and exhausted by her long efforts, Carolyn Clifton sought her own chamber, and threw herself, all splendidly arrayed as she was, upon her bed. She had no fear of interruption, for it was not yet daybreak, and her woman would not be up for several hours; so she was surprised, and not at all pleased, when a gentle rap came to the door. She would not answer or move to let the rapper know that she was awake. She was weary, weary with acting for one night, and needed rest. But after the unknown had rapped two or three times, the door was gently opened, and the sweet voice of Zuleime was heard to say, "Sister, I know you are not asleep-will you let me come in ?" And, without waiting for an answer, she entered, and softly closed the door, and came to the bedside, saying, 'I heard you when you came up and threw yourself down on the bed, and I knew you were not asleep. Let me stay with you, dear sister, won't you ?"
"No, no, Zuleime; I wish to sleep," said Carolyn, still pressing both hands to her throbbing temples.
“Well, then, dear Carolyn, let me undress you-you can never compose yourself in that dress;" and the affectionate girl began to take off her slippers and stockings, saying, "I can take off all the small articles, and unlace your stomacher without disturbing you, sister; and then you need not stand up more than a minute to disrobe."
In indifference or abstraction, Miss Clifton permitted the gentle girl to unclasp all her jewels, and loosen her dress, without ever removing her hands, clasped tightly upon her temples, till Zuleime, wishing to take down the elaborate coiffure, gently withdrew them, and unwound the strings of pearls, and unfastened the plume of feathers. When the affectionate girl had laid aside all these glittering gewgaws, and freed her long, fair hair, and relieved her oppressed and fevered head, the proud and scornful Carolyn, subdued by the gentleness of her sweet, only sister, looked in her face, read there a strange sympathy, delicate as it was deep, and suddenly put her arms around her neck, drew her head down to her own, and kissed her fondly, murmuring, "O Zuleime! my child, my child! if you knew
I do know, dearest Carolyn! Dearest sister, I do know it all! all! and feel it-feel it from the bottom of my heart! That is the reason I came in, Carolyn. But I did not come in to disturb you, even by my sympathy. I came in to put you to sleep. Stand up, dearest Carolyn, and drop these heavy robes, and I will throw this light wrapper around you, and then you can lie down again-there."
Oh, sleep! when shall I sleep again?" bitterly asked Carolyn, as Zuleime laid her head tenderly back upon the freshened pillow.
“Well, don't talk, dear Carolyn, and you will see that God will send sleep." And Zuleime cooled her brow by passing over it several times a piece of ice in a napkin, and laid down by her side, and fanned her, in that measured, monotonous time so inducive to slumber. So slowly she fanned her, resisting all her attempts to enter into conversation, until wearied nature yielded, and Carolyn was asleep. Then, as it was morning, Zuleime hoisted the windows to admit a fresh current of air, but left the blinds closed, to exclude the light. Next, she put all Carolyn's things carefully away, and silently restored the room to order. Then she laid a folded napkin, dipped in ice-water, over the still burning brow, and cautiously left the room, to go and order tea and toast to be ready for Carolyn as soon as she should awake. She found the house below stairs in a great but comparatively silent bustle. The servants, who had scarcely retired the night previous, were engaged in clearing away the disorder of the saloon, parlour, and dining-room, and in
laying the cloth for breakfast for the numerous visitors who had remained over night. Zuleime passed on to the kitchen, and gave her orders, and then silently stole up stairs again to her sister's room.
Carolyn slept long and heavily. Several hours passed before she awoke. When she opened her eyes, and fixed them gratefully upon Zuleime, she raised her arms, again embraced her, saying, "You have comforted me, dear
"And I will comfort you more, dear sister. I know how to do it. How do you feel, Carolyn ?"
Better, my head clearer, my nerves steadier; but a weary weight at my heart."
"It shall go away, Carolyn. I know how to drive it But first you must take something."
And Zuleime rang the bell, and told the servant who appeared to bring Miss Carolyn some fresh tea and toast.
While he was gone after it, Zuleime bathed her sister's face and hands, and combed out her hair; and by the time she was made comfortable, the servant re-appeared with the refreshments.
After Carolyn had breakfasted lightly (and this was the first food she had taken for thirty-six hours), she fell exhausted back upon her pillow, and said, "I cannot appear this morning, Zuleime. I am tired of acting a part."
"You need not do it, dear Carolyn. The people have breakfasted, and are almost all gone, and the others are going. Carolyn, dear, I saw Archer when he went away—” Miss Clifton was still too proud to make a comment.
Carolyn, he looked broken-hearted, despairing-indeed, he did. O Carolyn! I think if he could have hoped that you would have made up with him, he would have let his regiment go to perdition rather than not have hastened to your feet."
Why did he not try, then ?"
'Oh, sister, you banished him, and men have some pride. He waited for your relenting, I feel sure!"
Carolyn remembered, with bitter regret, her refusal to let her father go and recall him.
Carolyn, write to him. The detachment under his command does not march from Winchester for nine days yet. Write, Carolyn; there is abundant time for him to get your
letter and answer it before he goes. Then you will be reconciled and happy. Everything will be restored; and you will comfort yourself by remembering that he would have had to have gone any way, and that he is gone reconciled!”
Miss Clifton shook her head.
No, Zuleime, I cannot!
I should not know how to write such a letter. What could I say to him ?" "Say! I should know what to say. If you have banished him, revoke your sentence of exile. If you have ascertained that you have done him injustice, tell him so. If you are sorry that you parted in anger, let him know it. If you wish to hear from him before he goes, ask him to write to you.' "I could not-I could not. I never could write such a letter. My heartstrings would crack in the attempt.” "And are you so proud? And will you let him go forth to that ghastly Indian war? O God! my flesh creeps only to think of it!" said Zuleime, shuddering. "And will you not retract your false accusation, and revoke your cruel sentence of banishment, and express kind feelings and kind wishes for him about to be exposed to such horrors ?"
"I can't! I can't! I cannot ! My heartstrings would snap with the effort! I can bear sorrow, but not humiliation. I can die, but I cannot be humbled."
"You cannot be humbled by an act of justice, sister. That letter would be only an act of justice. And, oh! it would give him such happiness, and bring you such sweet peace, in place of all this heartburning. Think of it, dear Carolyn.'
While Zuleime spoke, a rap was heard at the door, and a servant appeared, and said that "marster wished to see Miss Zuleime in the parlour."
"Think of it, dear Carolyn," said Zuleime in a cheerful voice, kissing her sister's forehead, and then hastening out of the room.
Carolyn did think of it. The idea once presented, she could not banish it again; the hope of a reconciliation once raised could not be suppressed. She could think of nothing else. "It was but an act of common justice-it was a duty,' she repeated to herself many times, to answer the objections of her pride, which argued, "It is undignified, unwomanly, to make this overture." Then her love, her benevolence, her fears for him pleaded, "It will make him so happy; it will